All Blacks rival class of ’87, says former Aussie skipper

Former Australia captain Nick Farr-Jones believes the current New Zealand team that will play in Sunday’s World Cup final against France stands comparison with the All Blacks side that won the inaugural edition of rugby’s showpiece tournament back in 1987.

The 2011 All Blacks swept aside Australia 20-6 in last weekend’s semifinals and are overwhelming favourites to defeat a France team that only scraped past 14-man Wales 9-8 in an all European last four encounter.

“It is worth reflecting that in past Rugby World Cups, only one team stood head and shoulders above the pack,” former Wallaby captain Farr-Jones wrote in Tuesday’s New Zealand Herald.

“They were the All Black band of 1987 in the tournament’s inaugural event.

“In that event New Zealand won and daylight came second,” added Farr-Jones. “They would go on to dominate world rugby for two and a half years.

I am sure their brothers of 2011 will make sure they don’t get in front of themselves this week, but, with one match remaining, this All Black team looks destined to replicate the ’87 achievement,” said Farr-Jones, who in 1991 captained Australia to the first of their two World Cup titles.

‘Just too good’
Many pundits had predicted Australia would push New Zealand close at Eden Park — a ground where the All Blacks haven’t lost since 1994 — but in the end they had no answer to the home team’s fearsome pace and power.

“They were just too good on Sunday night against a determined Australian team. You can only play as well as you are allowed and yet again the Wallabies were shut down across the paddock,” said Farr-Jones.

“They [New Zealand] are the greatest exponents of ball-in-hand complete rugby and after 15 minutes the Wallabies had missed a tackle for each minute.”

Farr-Jones was also impressed with the performance of third-choice New Zealand flyhalf Aaron Cruden, only playing because of tournament-ending groin injuries to Dan Carter and Colin Slade, although the Australia great recognised the novice No 10 and the remaining backs “could not have prospered if it wasn’t for the platform being laid up front”.

“He executed his job very well and, while there were some expected lapses, his general maturity and calmness was the standout for me,” Farr-Jones said of Cruden. “His coolness in keeping the scoreboard ticking with a well-executed first-half drop goal again showed this New Zealand team have many ways of putting oppositions to the sword.”

And as for the All Blacks’ skipper, who has been nursing a foot injury, Farr-Jones said: “You could have fooled me that their captain, Richie McCaw, was on one leg.

“He seemed to live in the pocket of halfback [scrumhalf] Will Genia and made life for the cornerstone of the Wallaby team tough. McCaw should deservedly be hoisting the Webb Ellis Cup on Sunday night.” — AFP

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